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Tell Us In 10: Oliver Kaderbhai

Harriet Hughes

By Harriet Hughes First Published 7 April 2022, Last Updated 30 May 2022

In our profile series, Tell Us In 10, we ask cast members and creatives of top London shows to tell us all about themselves in just 10 questions.

This week we hear from Oliver Kaderbhai, the director of Olivier Award-winning play Clybourne Park.

Find out more about Oliver in our Tell Us In 10…

1. My route into theatre was…

Am-Dram! Performing in musicals with the Eastleigh Operatic and Musical Society from the age of 7. That’s where I started learning about being both an actor and a director because we had some amazing performers and two brilliant young directors for our shows, David Tatnall and Simon Pontin. Simon went on to become a great performer and is now an agent and remains in the industry. David went on to be a teacher – and if his passion for theatre is anything to go by, I reckon he’s inspired hundreds of kids since me.

2. The thing I love most about my job is…

It’s the moments when something works for the first time and I get goosebumps. It could be a simple connection between two actors in a rehearsal room or something more technical when lights, sound and action all work together perfectly. Sometimes you work on something for hours or even days and it’s not quite right and then you make a change and it falls together perfectly. It’s the magic that happens when you have the right combination of people all pushing in the same direction.

3. My favourite show from present or past (that isn’t one I have worked on) is…

SUCH a difficult question – can I have 3? The shows most important to me are The Elephant Vanishes by Complicite, Hymns by Frantic Assembly and the Dragon Trilogy by Robert Lepage & Ex Machina. I saw all three within months of each other and they completely reframed my understanding of what theatre could be.

4. A misconception about my job is…

That the only work a director does is in the rehearsal room and/or with the actors. It’s months and months of design meetings, casting meetings, planning and research that takes place before you begin rehearsal and then all the hours once you’re in rehearsal plus tech rehearsals, previews and show-watches throughout the run. I come from a devising background so I like to work closely with all departments: producers, cast, crew, stage management and the venue to craft the show, and the audience experience, collaboratively.

5. The hardest part about my job is…

Finding the right play or idea and having the tenacity to see it through. Much of my directing work has been new writing through my company, DELIRIUM. Developing those ideas takes a huge amount of time and money, so there’s a lot of admin in addition to the creative part of actually making a good show. I was developing one idea for 10 years before finally receiving Arts Council funding to workshop it last year. And I first decided I wanted to direct Clybourne Park in 2013 but it wasn’t until 2020 that we were first able to put it into rehearsal – of course, we only made it onto stage this year, thanks to Covid.

6. The career moment I’m most proud of is…

I considered changing my surname at the start of my career to give myself more chance as an actor. In the end I decided not to, and the day my name was on the front of two west end theatres at the same time, one as an actor and the other as a director I filled with pride. I think I’m the first Kaderbhai to perform in the West End and would love to know if I’m not.

7. On my days off I like to…

I’ve only recently realised the importance of time off, so now I try to make the most of it. I like to try and see friends and family when I can, because I invariably end up falling off the grid when in rehearsal for a show. I also like to find new places to take my dog for walks, both in and out of London, and those days usually end up in a decent dog-friendly pub somewhere.

8. My daily work rituals include…

Coffee. Lots of it. When I’m in rehearsal warm ups are really important. I quite like the ritualistic nature of sports, which I discovered playing in teams whilst growing up, and I think it translates well to theatre. A moment of togetherness at the start of the day or before a show is fundamental to a unified company. For Clybourne Park ball games have been prominent and everyday since we started performing, Michael Fox has been leading a Golden Hoop. If you know, you know.

9. My inspiration is…

I think when I was younger I’d have probably said another artist of some sort, but as I get older I think my inspiration is actually my parents. They worked 6 days a week for almost 4 decades running a business, brought up three boys, each of whom needed ferrying to swimming lessons or sports matches multiple times a week and still managed to host parties at the weekend fuelled by home cooking. I don’t know how they found the time or the energy.

10. The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is…

Surround yourself with people who are better at what they do than you are at what you do – it’s the best way to keep learning. Also, treat your people well, learn their names and know what they do – they’ll be invaluable.

 

You can book now for Clybourne Park at the Park Theatre, currently booking until 23 April!

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